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These are almost the only stable tricks which are worth noticing, and by paying attention to them, much of the character and disposition of a horse may frequently be learnt. The other tricks of shying, rearing, bolting, jibbing, and the defects of hard mouth, boring on the hand, stumbling, tripping, and occasionally lying down, cum multis aliis, are best detected on trial; and therefore it is always advisable to take as little for granted and as little from report as possible, and to form your opinion by riding or driving (or both) every horse before you pay your money for him.
I remember some years ago a horse called “ Solicitor," that was sold and resold at the hammer a great number of times, always at a very low price to a dealer, but sometimes at a tolerable figure to gentlemen who did not know him. His appearance was striking and his action good, and thus those who were unacquainted with him always thought they had got a great bargain if they obtained him for about fifty pounds. This brute, however, would undergo any and
every species of punishment rather than work, and, when harnessed, would very deliberately lie down when the whip was applied to him. A short time ago too a very remarkably fine horse was sold at the hammer for I think
six pounds, and disposed of immediately afterwards for eighty. A friend of mine, who knew him, told me that, after going a short distance, he became perfectly paralytic, and could not move in a straight line, and predicted that he would ere long re-appear at auction, which prophecy was fulfilled the following week. A third horse belonging to a friend of mine was every few days suddenly seized with rheumatism to such a degree that he has been obliged to have him taken out of harness in the streets, and put into the nearest stable, which he had always great difficulty in reaching: and a fourth I have known, after having been run up and down a ride half a dozen times, drop guddenly behind and become incapable of going farther. He had been probably hurt in the back at some period or other, and on a little over-exertion of some muscle, the nerve supplying it would be all at once affected, and produce instant incapability of progression, and lameness for a certain time.
These horses, after they become known to the dealing fraternity, prove a rich harvest to them, for they pick them up for a mere trifle, and then, after having nursed them for a short time, advertise them as “ the property of a gentleman going abroad;" or of one 6 who has met with an accident and cannot ride;" or “of a lady or gentleman deceased, and to be sold by order of the executors.” These traps are generally baited with the assurance that “they will be parted with for half their value to a kind master;" and commonly finish with the notice that no dealer need apply.”—At first sight it would appear to the uninitiated that this winding-up is on account of the unwillingness of the owner to suffer his favorite horse to get into the hands of any scamp who may play tricks with him ; but the real truth is, that
dealer well knows his brethren are not easily done, and consequently the termination of the advertisement saves useless trouble on both sides.
I had almost forgotten to say that horses that have received any injury of the spine, or that have any complaint of the kidneys (which causes them to bend or droop behind, and more or less impedes the
action of the hind-quarters), have among dealers received the appellation of kidney-droppers.
From what I have said respecting those tricks and diseases which may not be immediately manifest, but which are only discovered after a time, the necessity of a sufficient trial before purchasing a horse must be evident; and this, whenever it can be obtained, should invariably be backed by a warranty of soundness and freedom from vice. In these days of the “march of intellect,” nine gentlemen out of ten are tolerably conversant with the points and diseases of the horse, and on that account, and for the purpose of avoiding disputes, it has for a long time been the custom at Tattersall's to sell horses at auction without a warranty: but in that establishment every horse for sale on Monday must be in the stables by four o'clock on Friday; and thus plenty of time is allowed both for inspection and trial (in the ring adjoining the yard) before the auction commences. Dealers here are obliged, in common with others, to purchase horses without a warranty; but the stablemen are generally in their interest, and obtain from the groom the character of every horse that comes into the yard, which they retail to the dealers, whose judgment is thus, in most cases, backed by private intelligence from head-quarters. Nevertheless they of course do sometimes get taken in as well as their neighbours, and consequently must not be run down for selling a good horse, when they happen to get one, for a much higher sum than they have paid for him. Nothing is more unfair than to call a man a rogue for making the most of an animal that belongs to him, provided he use no deceit in disposing of him; and if a horse be sound and good, there is no precise limit within the bounds of reason that can be put to his price. There are many dealers in London that have as good a character for honesty and fair dealing as men in any other business; and although it may be true that they frequently demand a higher price for horses than they may possibly be bought for elsewhere, they are not on that account to be considered as acting unfairly. Any person, without being a dealer, may now and then pick up a horse a great bargain, especially in London, where the vicissitudes of fortune, caprice, or any other reason, daily cause people to part with their horses for almost any sum that may be bid for them; but it by no means follows that the person thus becoming master of a valuable animal should be considered a rogue if he sell him for two or three times as much as he gave for him, provided always that he be disposed of without any misrepresentation. Fancy, in short, goes so far in the purchase of a horse, that no two people can be found to agree in their opinion on this subject, whether with reference to capabilities, points, or value.
I shall now give a short description of the mode very generally adopted by low dealers in selling a horse. For this purpose I will suppose a horse to be brought out for inspection that is a little lame before : the factotum brings him out well-gingered, and probably after having administered three or four sharp cuts to his belly or legs places where wheals do not readily shew themselves the animal rushes out of the stable, his tail on end, his nostrils dilated, and looking altogether exceedingly plucky-alias extremely frightened. He is led to rising ground, where he appears higher than he is really is, as his VOL. XIX.SECOND SERIES.-No.113,
fore-legs are raised above the spot whence you examine him. You proceed to inspect him, and when you are about to feel the doubtful leg, a sly wave of the whip—which the poor brute is all along expecting to be applied to him---produces a caper, which probably induces you to get out of the way of being trodden on; and thi manæuvre is constantly resorted to whenever you wish to pass your hand down the game leg. At length, when you get rather tired of this, the word is given, “ Run on, Tom.” Crack
goes the whip, the hat is taken off, and a rattling noise is made by beating it with the fist: away goes the horse, prancing, capering, and cantering up the yard and back again, his head well supported by a tight-held bit, and his shoulder by that of the man who leads him. “ I want to see him trot, Mr. So-and-So; he seems to do nothing but canter.” The dealer well knows the lameness will be seen at this pace.
Why don't you let the horse trot, Tom?-the gen'leman wants to see him trot” (crack-crack--rattle-rattle). Upon this ensues a second edition of the capering and cantering. 6 Beautiful trotter, Sir, 'pon my word—but he won't settle into a trot here, Sir : did fourteen miles within the hour no longer ago than yesterday, with his knee up to his chin.—That'll do, Tom, go in.” C“ Stop, stop, I want to see a little more of him.”—“Go in, Tom, go in : what'll you give for him, Sir? He's worth a hundred-he is indeed. I refused a deal of money for him last week, but I must go down to fair the day after to-morrow, and so I'm determined to sell off what I've got.” Now should you make an offer for him greater than the dealer would be delighted to take, he is too great a philosopher to manifest any joy at your bidding, but shakes his head, tells you innumerable lies, which are all at his fingers' ends, and asks you a farther sum. Supposing he finds you peremptory in adhering to your first offer, he comes down in his demands in the following way :--"Well, Sir, I shall sell, as I said afore, but you must spring a little, Sir. Now do you try and buy him, Sir, and I dare say we shall not fall out.”
“ Upon this hint you speak," and offer perhaps two, three, or five pounds more. -“ No, 'pon my word you're too hard upon me, Sir: say two pounds more, and he is yours, Sir—there now.”—“No; I'll not give another penny.”—“ Well, then, I tell you what I suppose we must do, Sir, we must halve the difference, and you must give me a poundthat's fair.” This proposition is perhaps acceded to, and you find at length that your friend the dealer would gladly have taken much less than your first offer. However, of this be sure, that so long as you manifest the slightest symptom of continuing to bid, so long will the bargaining go on; and, supposing you to offer ten pounds less than a dealer will sell for, he will then ask ten pounds more than his price, in order that the final proposal of "splitting the difference” may obtain for him the sum he requires.
This being the case, after having acquired some experience relative to the value of horses, you should, when you have made up your mind as to the price you are willing to give for one, never allow your judgment to be warped by the representations of the owner, whose interest it is to say as much as possible in favor of his own property; nor suffer yourself to be tempted to offer a larger sum than yo'i conceive to be he worth of a horse by accounts of his having “ leaped such a turnpike
gate," or 66 left a whole field of hunters behind him in a severe run,"
“ trotted so many miles in harness within the hour," unless you have a good opportunity afforded you of ascertaining the truth of these statements, or of putting their probability to the test.
It is the business of a horse-dealer to cry up his cattle above all others;
but such is the horse-mania with which nine Englishmen out of ten are infected, that gentlemen very seldom tell the exact truth when dilating on the merits of their own nag. I do not by any means intend to insinuate that any gentleman will tell a wilful falsehood respecting his horse ; but such is the desire to be thought to possess a good one, and to be considered a judge of horse-flesh, that every man, almost unintentionally, is led to extol the qualities of his horse in a somewhat exaggerated strain; and when he wants to part with him, he of course cannot unsay what he has already said in his praise, and consequently sells him with a character to which he is perhaps not strictly entitled. In purchasing a horse therefore, once more
take nothing for granted,” even from a friend (and this is saying a great deal, but by no means too much-experto crede), but have a trial when you can get one, and form your own opinion, out of which do not allow yourself to be talked.
Were it not for the extraordinary accounts that we are constantly in the habit of seeing in the newspapers of the mode in which some men are taken in by vagabond horse-dealers of the lowest description, it would
appear almost unnecessary to notice some of the common tricks of these fellows, so often have they been exposed; but as they are, in spite of their staleness, every now and then successfully practised upon the unwary, an exposition of some of the manquvres of these vagabonds will not be misplaced.
One of their communest tricks is to buy a fine-looking but unsound horse, very frequently a rank roarer, or a “ bit of blood that has broken down, and advertise him with the usual excuses of sale which I have already noticed. If he is for sale in the hunting season, fence is too high, or hounds too fast for him ;” or “ he is by Highflyer or Cock Robin-(or some other horse that flourished perhaps fifty years ago--for your dealer is neither very well versed in the lore of the Racing Calendar, nor very particular)-out of Skyscraper's dam, &c., and was bought of the breeder.” If he is to be disposed of at the beginning of the summer“ he is a delightful hack-a splendid parkhorse-has been a few times in harness and went very quiet-has grand and fast action, and is parted with for no fault, ill health being the owner's reason for selling him," &c. Probably fifteen pounds would well repay the advertiser for his purchase, and he may be ready and delighted to take that sum for him. Attracted by the description given of the horse (which is represented as being able to do everything but talk), a customer, rather green, proceeds to inspect him. Half a glance is sufficient to inform the dealer (who is generally in a groom's livery,
“ his master is out of town”) that the person examining the horse is a novice. There is a timidity about those inaceastomed to horses, an awkwardness in handling them, and a want of method in their examination, that betrays the unpractised hand in a moment to
the experienced eye of a coper, as a low dealer is termed. He, there. fore, unblushingly asks three or four times the money that he is prepared to take for his horse, and very fairly offers a trial of him.
Take him away for two or three days, Sir, and do what you like with him. Master won't sell hi to any one as ain't satisfied with him, and you'll find him better than I tells
he is.” Charmed with this liberal mode of doing business, our flat accepts the offer, and in an evil hour bestrides the horse, after leaving a deposit in the hands of the groom nearly equalling the sum asked for him, besides giving that worthy functionary a sovereign for himself for the very honest information he has vouchsafed to bestow upon him, and for having promised for this reward" to get five or ten pounds thrown off the price.”
The horse is walked off the stones, when his rider begins to think that it will not be amiss to try how his bargain can trot, and then does he “a tale unfold.” Either he roars more sonorously than do the united tenants of Van Amburgh's largest cage, or he turns dead lame, or displays some vice which is by no means agreeable to an unexperienced equestrian. He is accordingly turned round, and his rider, indignation oozing at every pore, takes him back to his stable, and calls loudly for “ the Groom.” As well may he
“call spirits from the vasty deep!” In answer to his summons appears an ostler, who affirms that “the gemman is gone ; that he only brought the 'oss there the night afore from the country, and that he knows nothing about him.” Here is a dilemma for a novice ! Instead of the deposit he has left being ten or fifteen pounds less than the value of the horse, it is twenty pounds more than he is worth ; and the man who has got his money will probably, if caught, take the benefit of the “ Insolvent Act;" or give a bill for the horse back again, sell him to another flat, and be non est inventus when the bill becomes due; or he may possibly, through the uninterested testimony of that honest worthy, the ostler, prove that he fairly sold the horse without a warranty, and that the purchaser must be the loser by his want of knowledge. On the one hand, there is the uncertainty of finding a rogue whom this poor wight knows not where to look for, and who perhaps is metamorphosed into “a swell," with » formidable moustaches, an eye-glass, and gold-headed cane ; in short,
into a being who would never be recognised as the smooth-haired unwhiskered groom, with the narrow white handkerchief tied tightly round his throat, the striped black and yellow waistcoat, the bagging breeches, and knowing tops, and who, unless discovered forthwith and with his money in his pocket, and afterwards convicted of roguery, is probably not worth a shilling: and on the other hand is a horse by which he certainly now must lose money, but whose defects, if he will take the trouble to study them, may save him a deal of expenditure hereafter, and furnish him with abundance of experience on many points worth knowing. Then again there is the trouble of setting constables on the look out for a man of whom perhaps he can give but a very poor description--and this point is a very weighty one with many people and the fees wherewith the palms of these conscientious dignitaries are to be greased. On the whole, then, many a man is disposed to put up